By Prof Roger Kirby
Riding a mountain bike 445 km over dusty, off-road trails is not everyone’s cup of tea. But for us, flying over handlebars, suffering aching muscles and sunburn, as well as getting covered in dust was all just part of the excitement and exhiliration experienced in Malawi. For that was the location where 21 enthusiastic cyclists kitted up for a five-day bicycle tour in order to raise urgently needed funds for The Urology Foundation.
This was our second Cycle Challenge to raise funds for The Urology Foundation, which supports patient care, research, medical education and scholarships. Rather than just asking people for money, we wanted to literally get off our backsides and do something really challenging, so decided to cycle through Malawi, the poorest nation in Africa. So far, more than £40,000 has been raised for The Foundation as a result of this challenge.
Malawi is a very poor country of around 10 million people, and is affectionately known as the ‘warm heart of Africa’ because of the warmth and friendliness of its people. Children rushed out to greet us and if we were celebrities. The ride took participants through small villages where children and adults alike extended warm welcomes, rich smiles, and helpful hands. During the adventure, we cycled through forests, rubber and tea plantations, and up and down steep mountains on both tarmac and dusty, off-road trails.
We were so deeply touched by the children in Malawi that we have adopted a special charity to help support called “Malawi Dream” (www.malawidream.com). The organisation addresses the issues of health, education and sanitation for villagers living on Likoma Island, the larger of two islands on Lake Malawi.
Next September the Cycle Challenge for The Foundation is in Madagascar. We are looking for 30 participants. Which among you is tough enough to join the team? Check out www.actionforcharity.co.uk for details and online registration.